Despite all the hype that goes around being a rock star most bands find success not through some mystical muse but by years of dedication and hard work. God Bows To Math is one of those bands that embraces the challenge and embodies the spirit of DIY. They have been building a name for themselves across New Zealand and Australia for their incendiary live shows and explosive brand of noise-rock. Last year they helped the Shanghai band Pairs to tour New Zealand and now in a reciprocal effort This Town Touring brought them to China. We checked in with guitarist Martin Phillips to ask him about the tour and find out why it is that the most interesting and unique things are often created out of the mundane.
First things first, when you say god bows to math, just what kind of bow are we talking about? For example, one where you place one hand behind your back and place one foot in front of the other, like how gentlemen would bow to hot girls in 17th century Europe? Or feet together, hands at your side, like a Japanese business associate welcoming you at the airport? Talk me through this one…
I always imagined it was something altogether more theatrical, with fluid and exaggerated arm movements ushering in the next act.
The name itself isn’t ours, we stole it from ‘Double Nickels on the Dime’, I love the song as it maintains an air of mystery (in both the music and the lyrics) always seemingly resistant to definition. Phonetically I think it sounds great as well (anything more than four syllables is wasting my time) and it means we sit on record store shelves near HDU and Godspeed.
Death From Above 1979 used to tell people they met on a pirate ship/ in a gay bar/ at a Sonic Youth concert. How did you guys meet?
We once tried to tell a radio show host that we met in a public toilet in Panmure. It fell pretty flat at the time and served to reinforce the fact that none of us are ever going to take off on the professional comedy circuit.
The actual answer is a little bit more boring but I think boring has a bad reputation. Sometimes the most mundane things are the best.
I met Tom when my family moved up to Auckland and I had to switch high school for the last year or two of my school life. That was about ten years ago now, at various points we’ve worked together, lived together, and played in bands. I took up guitar in my last year at high school, Tom had been in the school band and I knew he could play drums. One summer he had access to a local church so we jammed on Black Sabbath riffs one afternoon (Tom guaranteed his ticket to hell in the process, but I’m Catholic so I’m still okay), had a great time and decided to form a band.
We met Cuss through his old band Sherpa who played at our second ever show. He filled in a couple of times when we were left in the lurch and about four years ago we convinced him to join permanently.
You can see what I mean when I describe it as boring. As nice as it would be to have some fantastical origin story involving an alien invasion, the Knights Templar and the large hydron collider, at the end of the day I think the longevity of a band really does hinge on being able to spend long periods of time in a smelly confined car together without getting into fisticuffs. Having two awesome people that are dependable definitely wins out over crazy origin myths.
I know a heap of kids based in Asia who haven’t been to New Zealand, so please, paint them a picture; what’s the scene like there? What are the logistics of putting out records, doing shows, doing tours?
It’s a bit difficult to compare to what’s happening in China since this will be our first time over there. I imagine things aren’t too much different when you get down to the bones of the matter.
New Zealand has nice scenery, and generally everyone is fairly easy-going. More than anything, it’s a small place both geographically and in terms of population and this has it’s own positives and negatives. The music community is very tight-knit but there isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to playing different cities etc. There’s enough of a distribution channel to be able to release independent music although the chances of making money are always verging on non-existent. There is a plethora of amazing artists that usually sit a little too far outside the mainstream to be easily found. Around the country there are a bunch of really great supportive venues (Lucha Lounge or Whammy in Auckland, Mighty Mighty and Puppies in Wellington, Space Monster, Queens, Chicks Hotel and darkroom all spring to mind). Most of the effort that gets put into putting on shows and running venues is a labor of love.
If anyone is interesting in coming over to NZ to play shows or even just to holiday feel free to get in touch (godbowstomathband AT gmail DOT com).
God Bows To Math at MAO, Beijing
How did three upstanding young men like yourselves fall in with those dograts Pairs?
As with most people who know Rhys there is a long and complex story as to how we met (note: there isn’t really; it’s all fairly straightforward).
Back in early 2008 his old band (Bang Bang Aids) came over to NZ for the second time to play a couple of shows. Somehow they ended up on a bill at one of the worst venues Auckland has ever seen (The PR Bar – R.I.P) and the promoter asked me if my band wanted to play. At that stage I was in a band with Tom and a couple of other friends playing music that was quite different to GBTM, after we played our set (my memory is fairly hazy as this was over five years ago) one of the BBA guys came backstage and said “man, you guys are pretty s**t ay”. We then witnessed BBA’s set and half of our band thought it was one of the best things we’d ever seen and the rest were tied between ambivalence and outright hatred of what these rats were doing to music.
That spelled the end of that and shortly after we formed GBTM (this is a very simplified version). So Rhys is partly responsible for breaking up our old band. Thankfully when Pairs came over to NZ in 2012 we managed to join them for most of their tour without imploding.
Pairs release in NZ through MUZAI and that’s how we really got close to each other, touring with them was incredibly fun. Both Rhys and F are fantastic human beings and very skilled musicians.
This 7″ release is joining the dots between a number of scenes; the UK, Australia, New Zealand and China. Why is it important to make the effort to branch out and do something beyond your own scene?
It’s really nice to be collaborating with people who share the same attitude towards music. I think having people from different parts of the world involved makes it feel like something bigger than it probably is which is a great feeling. There’s a sense of camaraderie that’s cross-cultural in releasing independent music. The other great thing is that when we finally do get to travel and play music we meet these amazing people that we already know quite well. We were lucky enough to go to Australia a couple of times and hang out with Shaun (tenzenmen) and when we get to China we’ll hopefully meet Nevin in the flesh as well.
I really respect what Genjing does in bringing together artists from different parts of the world. Tenzenmen and Bomb Shop have the same sort of approach and MUZAI is increasingly working with overseas artists. It would be really great to bring some more NZ artists into this sort of fold. It also keeps things more affordable since the cost is split between more parties.
God Bows To Math with Carb on Carb, Pairs and the Rat On Swamp Dog crew at Harley’s, Shanghai
What do you think kids in NZ can learn from Asia based bands? What can the world learn from kids in NZ?
One thing about the most of the Chinese bands I listen too is that they don’t seem to fit neatly into a particular genre (I’m talking of bands like P.K.14 or Duck Fight Goose), that’s one thing I picked up on. I think that’s a good attitude to have, there’s nothing worse than having one poor version of some international band in your city, which definitely happens (there’s always one Lightning Bolt, one Godspeed etc).
I’m not sure what anyone can learn from NZ kids, I don’t really speak to kids much so I am probably quite out of touch with what’s currently happening. I think being a small country New Zealand bands have the bonus of not worrying about signing to a major or achieving fame and fortune. There is an expectation that you have to work incredibly hard to make anything resembling a living from music (see Die! Die! Die! for an example) so bands generally don’t have to worry about financial concerns when writing and touring, it tends to make the music more adventurous without such concerns. Even the ones who do make a living tend to retain their own unique approach.
What are you expecting from the China tour? Will this be your first time coming to Asia? Aren’t you mad that This Town Touring didn’t hook you up playing some children’s parties?
Oh goodness gracious me, I think if we played children’s parties there would be a few concerned parents out there. I’ve always preferred audiences that are old enough to drink alcohol since that tends to make their view of us more favorable (alcohol+loud noise = more favorable opinion of our music).
We don’t have many expectations going into the tour. It’s going to be an incredible life experience for us and at the end of the day we just want to go somewhere a bit different from NZ and hang out with some old friends while we’re at it.
Once the vinyl is out there, it’s there forever. It doesn’t biodegrade, you can’t delete it by accident; what’s the significance of this 7″?
It’s our first release on actual vinyl (we’ve had a few lathe cut releases) and the first time we’ve done something with this level of collaboration across different labels. On a personal note it’s been something we’ve been working towards for nearly two years and we’re incredibly proud to finally have it out in the world.
After the release and the tour, what’s on the cards for GBTM?
Once we get home we are playing a show with a friend’s band from Australia and then maybe one or two other shows over the holiday period. We’ll be taking it fairly easy on the gig-front. We have finished the writing and almost finished the recording for our second album so we’ll spend a bit of time on the post-production side of things.
With the next one we want to put it out on vinyl so it’ll take a while to get the money together. The idea is to have it out next year sometime if possible and to tour it once it is released. We’re hoping to tour a bit farther afield as well as maybe heading back to Australia or China. Once that’s done it might be time for a break but I guess we’ll see what happens.
Follow the band on their facebook and twitter and listen to / buy their music on their website and bandcamp.]]>
It should come as no surprise that DIY and punk circuits around the world are pretty tight knit affairs; friends, acquaintances and friends of friends trading off information and contacts for venues, promoters, distributors, labels, other bands to tour with, many of these roles being the same group of people wearing different hats. Yet of course there always people coming in and people going out; grow up, have kids, get a HD television along the length of your house or whatever it is people aspire to these days. At the same time there will always be some scene, some little nook or cranny, that isn’t on Facebook and you haven’t come across. Simply put, there is always someone new to meet.
Yet in the Pacific region there is one name that comes up again and again across scenes, and that name is tenzenmen. It’s kind of like that game with how many handshakes you are away from Kevin Bacon, except you’ve realistically got to scale it down to the DIY scene in Asia and Oceanian and it’s Shaun tenzenmen you’re after, not a high school outcast who goes and throws shapes in empty warehouses when he gets pissed.
If we go back to the list of aforementioned roles tenzenmen fulfills almost all of those mentioned, from touring bands to helping put out their music and get it distro’d over the world. As a label tenzenmen has been instrumental in exposing Chinese music to a wider audience and forging transpacific links, like a hub for good music going on anywhere. Sadly it seems like tenzenmen is in its final chapters, so we took this opportunity to talk to the man behind the label about how it all happened and his role in the recent split release between Pairs and God Bows To Math, that tenzenmen helped release.
What got you started putting out records?
Around 2002-2003 I was playing in an improvised jazz noise group and the leader from that decided to leave the country. He decided he was going to carry on the name (Hinterlandt) and keep creating music in the meantime. So I set him a challenge to write me three songs for an idea I had for a compilation CD series. He did that and so did I. That CD series was called Eccentrics and featured three albums and wide range of bands and styles of music from a few different places around the world. After that I just never stopped!
What influences the artists you choose to work with?
This has changed over time. Originally it was my friends that I was releasing — or new found friends with the ease of finding new music on the internet. After a visit to China in 2007 I started to work with Maybe Mars and just decided to release their whole catalogue. The depth of their catalogue genre-wise suits my tastes and complements the tenzenmen aesthetic very well. Later some bands started approaching me to work with the label — some of them didn’t even want me to do that much as they had everything already sorted — they just wanted to be part of what I was doing.
To me, tenzenmen is a punk label in the truest sense. It’s just not possible to pigeonhole releases across the catalogue. So my criteria is more related to what artists want and expect from me and their understanding of how I work and, importantly, how they work. I have made serious financial losses running the label and it’s been worth every penny!
Have you ever made a profit off this?
The closest I have personally gotten to making a profit was last year — and I still lost about $10,000. Actually there is a good chance I will make a profit this year but that is for other reasons I’ll talk about later. I have only ever wanted to support the music I like and enjoy and hopefully help bring it to new ears.
For myself and I think most bands I work with, we know we’re never going to make money doing this. Running the label is relatively easy and that has allowed me to expand the catalogue at a rapid pace. Once things are in place they don’t change that much. The internet is a great boon for music fans like myself — it’s so easy to find great new music. The only time I’ve been annoyed by piracy is when I found a Russian site trying to sell mp3s of some of my releases — but even giving that some thought who the hell would actually pay them anyway? Any kid who knew about these releases and wanted them badly enough would figure out a way to get them for free. Luckily there is a fairly supportive sprinkling of fans who do buy product and most of my sales these days are for digital downloads.
Shaun in ‘Fusion’, circa 1992
This release between Pairs and God Bows to Math sees a number of scenes being linked together, between New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and China. What made you decide to jump on board with this release?
I’ve worked directly with all the people involved before except for Bomb Shop and it just made sense to be part of this release to help give it an outlet in Australia (where God Bows to Math have toured and where everyone knows Rhys from Pairs too).
When Nevin started Genjing I asked him to keep me in the loop with any releases he was working on and if it caught my interest I’d commit to some involvement.
Likewise, with Muzai in New Zealand we’ve both helped each other find interesting bands to work with and support. This type of international co-operation is quite prevalent in the punk and hardcore scenes across South East Asia. Bands can get the support of many labels around the world to take small quantities of product and spread the costs at the same time as spreading their art.
What’s the value of physical artifacts to make these links between scenes rather than just creating a Facebook group so dudes can share giraffe fail videos and other shit?
It’s probably most important now because the only way to even make a little money is to play shows — and the best place to sell you physical product is to a roomful of prospective customers. All these links enable bands to travel further afield and discover new music, new cultures and new friends. What better way to see the world?
What can bands elsewhere in the world learn from those operating out of Asia?
Many bands who have returned from tours in Asia are extremely humbled by the support they receive over there. Things might seem mighty chaotic to us but they will come together. If your mind is open you will make life long friends in these places — even people you might only meet for one night at one show. They are SO appreciative of your effort to visit them. So I hope that we learn that we can do the same to those who take the time to come and visit us in our own towns, cities and countries.
Depending on your theological beliefs after we pass from this mortal realm there is either, heaven, hell, reincarnation as something without opposable thumbs, or absolutely nothing. Regardless, what we do in the here and now won’t be transferred to the afterlife, so what gets you excited to continue doing projects if not eternal salvation?
For many years I would consider myself quite directionless, not quite sure how I could define myself. Running tenzenmen has helped me achieve that. It’s really just a personal thing. Of course I really appreciate the positive feedback I get from time to time and that sometimes helps me through when I wonder ‘why the fuck am I doing this!?’
The only thing we CAN do is here and now, so let’s do it. There really isn’t time to waste.
What’s 2014 going to be like for tenzenmen?
2014 will see tenzenmen wind down as a label as I have to utilize my money for other things. I’ll still work on projects that don’t involve and financial commitments so things will still tick along for a while, and I still have a few releases in the works. As my financial input decreases this actually increases my chances of making a profit this year so long as I keep selling things. Stock is low on quite a few releases now and it will be great to reclaim some space on my book shelves and in the garage! I have already sent out care packages of old distro stock and some releases to Indonesia and Myanmar — I’ll probably do that with anything that’s left. I have kept one copy of everything I released for my own personal collection and it will be nice to look over that legacy one day.
I have a book written that I need to sit down and edit sometime too. But I’ll probably just watch movies and play Xbox instead.
Any final words to share?
Support your local musicians any way you can. Don’t sit idle — do something. Anything.
Do yourself a favor and follow tenzenmen on facebook and tumblr. You can also hear his catalogue and purchase both physical and digital releases from his website and bandcamp.]]>
Auckland’s God Bows To Math have toured relentlessly in Australia and New Zealand playing backyards and basements, earning the respect and love of zinesters and scenesters across the region and have been hailed by Groove Guide as “the most dangerous band making the rounds on the New Zealand tour circuit.” Now they’re bringing their incinery brand of noise rock to the Middle Kingdom as they promote their new 7-inch split with Shanghai’s local DIY partisans, Pairs.
The split is a collaboration between four labels from four different countries, New Zealand’s Muzai Records, UK’s Bomb Shop, Australia’s Tenzenmen and China’s Genjing. In the spirit of keeping it local each label is creating it’s own unique packaging for four super limited versions of this release. The Chinese edition is limited to 150 copies, each individually hand-numbered and packaged with their own black & white photocopied zine.
Be sure to pick up your copy and catch God Bows To Math as they play eleven dates across the country humbling us all with the power of noise.
11.7 Thursday @ MAO Livehouse [Beijing]
11.8 Friday @ One Livehouse [Zibo]
11.9 Saturday @ Bohemia Bar [Zaozhuang]
11.11 Monday @ Wave Livehouse [Suzhou]
11.13 Wednesday @ Castle Bar [Nanjing]
11.15 Friday @ Hongtangguan [Shaoxing]
11.16 Saturday @ Harley’s [Shanghai]
11.20 Wednesday @ VOX [Wuhan]
11.21 Thursday @ 4698 [Changsha]
11.22 Friday @ Hongtangguan [Shenzhen]
11.23 Saturday @ 191 Space [Guangzhou]
Since forming in 2008 Beijing’s Streets Kill Strange Animals have steadily made a name for themselves as one of the most interesting and original band’s coming out of China’s capital. Emerging at a time when all eyes were on China and the music scene was literally exploding, SKSA have proved they are in it for the long run, working on the their sound, doing regular live shows, touring, and in 2012 putting out their first full length, Plan B: Back to the Analog Time, a title that hints at the themes within (whereas lyrical content rarely deals with wild animals getting wiped out by traffic despite the band’s moniker).
It terms of sound SKSA manage to strike a balance between experimental and sometimes harsh noises that a select few Beijing venues have become laboratories for, and an accessibility that allows anyone to enjoy their music. It’s unconventional, it’s loud, it’s fuzzy, but it’s not purposely obtuse. If we compare their sound to paint there is way more structure and form than a Jackson Pollock, but at the same time far more coloring outside the lines than an Andy Warhol. Instead Streets Kill Strange Animals are like a Picasso inspired piece of street art, recognizable form twisted and toyed with, applied to an imperfect canvas, and doused in vibrant color.
Lyrically there is a lot of discussion about China today, a place that has changed rapidly, leaving the big cities unrecognizable to their own inhabitants over the course of a mere decade and a half. Life is fast, constantly changing, and ultimately unsustainable, where normal people can only stand by and watch pandemonium unfold around them. The lines of SKSA’s songs tell the story of this disconnect, like Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’, watching the world go, but separated by a glass barrier, unable to reach and touch what’s before you.
Genjing Records is excited to present a 7” featuring the previously unreleased tracks ‘Through’ and ‘The Bridge’. We had a sit down with guitarist/vocalist Leng Mei about the roots of the band, influences, and the story behind all the noise.
Who are Streets Kill Strange Animals? What do you do?
We are Zhang Yang (drummer), Yang Dan (bass player) and me, Leng Mei (guitars and vocals). Zhang Yang is living in Baoding city of Hebei province as a drum teacher, Yang Dan doesn’t work, and I work as the distributor for Maybe Mars records.
How did the band start out?
I came to Beijing looking for musicians for the band in 2007, the band started in 2008. Zhang Yang just joined us this summer.
Who would you cite as some of your early influences?
I think Yo La Tengo influenced me first! Before that I heard lots of Low and Red House Painters. But finally I really wanted to make a band like Sonic Youth. Maybe this was a kind of evolution.
You come from Nanjing originally; how is the feel of the city different from Beijing?
I grew up in Nanjing, and I think there is a great difference between the weather and culture. It is so cold without heat in winter and so hot and wet in summer in Nanjing; Beijing is the center for artists.
Your music has been described as being “future shock”, being directly influenced by the rapid pace of change and modernization in China. What are you trying to communicate through your music about change, modern life and identity in a place that never seems to stand still?
I love it to be described as the “missing past”; there was less pollution and fewer people in the 80′s of my childhood, though you could enjoy less entertainment and there wasn’t such chaos in the cities. So it seems that I’m a passenger on the bus these days.
Tell us about the two songs on this 7″: what were the ideas behind the songs? How and where were they recorded? Why did you choose these two tracks for the Genjing release?
‘Through’ tells the story of a lonely boy who is always looking for something around the city; ‘The Bridge’ is asking us what is a dream? But it could mean anything to anyone. We recorded them at the Tree Studio in 2011, our friend Michael Winkler also added the guitar and vocals in ‘The Bridge’. We really didn’t like the mix before, so Li Weiyu, the producer of Duck Fight Goose, re-mixed them. We liked his work for Duck Fight Goose and Muscle Snog, and the result is good.
‘Through’ holds the hallmarks of a noise rock anthem you could expect from the Sonic Youth, with touches of My Bloody Valentine, whereas ‘The Bridge’ is both haunting and psychedelic, like one of the Smashing Pumpkins slower, darker numbers. What influences these two different sides to Streets Kill Strange Animals?
They are the first two songs I wrote in about 2003, we changed the arrangement a lot. I heard Yo La Tengo’s Painful and Sonic Youth’s Goo hundreds of times, as well as many good indie rock bands from Matador and Sub Pop. Maybe my first noise experience was ‘Drown’ by The Smashing Pumpkins’ for The Singles soundtrack — what great feedback they did!
Why do you think it’s important for Chinese bands to put out music on vinyl?
For me vinyl means you must respect the music. MP3s are like a whirlpool filling with uncertain information. They are easier for people, but I don’t like them.
You’re about to embark on a pretty extensive tour of China in conjunction with the release; what are you looking forward to?
We exist to do shows, it’s nice to meet more people and play with the bands outside Beijing.
After the tour is done what’s next for Streets Kill Strange Animals?
We will write new songs when we finish the tour, but before that we must have a good rest!
You can pick up Streets Kill Strange Animals’ new 7″ ‘Through’ by mail-order or from select stores around the globe. If you reside in the Middle Kingdom be sure to catch the band on their China tour as they roll through your town!]]>
Streets Kill Strange Animals is a noise rock band from Beijing, China. With comparisons drawn to Chinese post-punk godfathers P.K. 14 and Sonic Youth, Streets Kill Strange Animals have made a name for themselves with their fuzz drenched melodies, pounding rhythms and explosive energy, both on stage and in the studio. Lyrics about lost childhoods and the disconnection between people and nature that typifies life in 21st century China only adds enigmas and intrigue to a band whose moniker references roadkill. With time there is nothing to stop Streets Kill Strange Animals becoming figures of underground folklore in the Chinese music scene, inspiring kids across the country to crank up the fuzz, turn off the lights, and talk about just how strange the streets can be.
Leng Mei – Vocals / Guitar
Yang Dan – Bass / Keyboard
Qu Dawei – Drums
We’re proud to announce the release of our latest 7” from Beijing’s acclaimed noise-rockers Streets Kill Strange Animals. Pressed on creamy white vinyl this two song single “Through” coincides with the launch of the bands 2013 China tour–a psychedelic trip through the Middle Kingdom stopping at nineteen venues across the country. Pick up your copy now and join us on this psychic journey through China’s streets with one of the countries most promising acts!
Released: Oct 23, 2013
Format: 7″ vinyl
Tracks: 02 songs
|1. Through (5:46)|
|1. The Bridge (6:09)|
Since forming in 2008 Streets Kill Strange Animals have received critical acclaim for more than mere references to roadkill; fuzzed out guitar, growling bass lines, pounding drums and layers of electronic mutterings provide a blurry platform for lyrics about just how “interesting” it is to live in 21st century China.
After settling on their current line up in 2010 and playing shows across the People’s Republic, the trio released their first full length Plan B: Back to the Analog Time on Modern Sky records in 2012. Their latest release on Genjing, a two song 7” single, coincides with a China tour taking the band to nineteen venues across the country.
Side A of the record gives us “Through,” an example of Streets Kill Strange Animals at their best; a swirling wall of noise over which Leng Mei’s vocals drift, striking a beautiful balance between intensity and effortless cool that you could expect from the likes of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. Meanwhile Side B presents “The Bridge,” a more haunting and somber affair that wouldn’t seem out of place in Billy Corgan’s songbook with words whispered down a crackling telephone line over sounds that manage to both soothe and unsettle.
In case you are not yet convinced here are some nice things that have been said about the band:
“With a name like an off-kilter road safety announcement, Beijing’s Streets Kill Strange Animals are one of the more interesting bands to emerge from the capital in recent years.” - Jake Newby, Timeout Shanghai
“No other country like China understands the meaning of future shock, and no other band like Streets Kill Strange Animals are able to put it to electrified sounds and furious rhythms.” - Jonathan Alpart, The Sound Stage
STREETS KILL STRANGE ANIMALS
Leng Mei – Vocals / Guitar
Yang Dan – Bass / Keyboard
Qu Dawei – Drums
As we count down the days to Saturday’s Underground Lovers/Dear Eloise release party and screen printing workshop, we asked IdleBeats co-founder Nini Sum to select five of the studio’s most memorable posters
5. Dear Eloise
The main idea was to create a scene that brings people a kind of visual feeling that’s similar or connected to what it feels when you listen to Dear Eloise. So I was wandering around Nanjing one day and taking photos of a public park and people chilling around. Later on, this image of a boy playing in that park kept appearing when I was walking around the city listening to their music. Then I treated the photos into a certain mood, kept the color tones grayish and also added rain and moonlight effect, so it’s a bit moody and surreal, also like a frame from a movie, which leads to unknown stories.
4. ‘Bolon Yocte’
Another masterpiece by Gregor, this illustration pictures the Mayan goddess of doom, Bolon Yocte, surfing the very last big wave of blood on the tablets of law before the whole world goes down on December 21st, 2012, which was the date of this concert: a psy-trance gig by Magic Garden. So it’s the poster to have to remember how lucky we are to stay alive after 2012!
3. Li Zhi’s ‘Report Back’ Concert
Li Zhi is one of my favorite musicians in China. Every year, he hosts a concert in Nanjing — my hometown. So I was so stoked when I got asked to design and print a poster for his concert last year. It’s a scene of him watching himself in an old TV, singing on a big screen drop in the forest with some animal audience. The TV signal leaks out like rainbow colors and makes it hard to tell which side is the reality. I came up with this image because I figured the report concert one part is for the fans and audience, but more for the musician’s self-communication and examination.
2. Mr. Fish’s Dinner
I made this for a Sub-Culture gig at Shelter in Shanghai. We’ve been working with the Sub-Culture crew since the very early stages of the studio up until today. “Mr. Fish’s Dinner” is a weird movie/dream scene that formed up in my head, which has this mysterious and dark fantasy feeling that just fits their music perfect!
1. Handsome Furs
This one of our earliest local gig posters by Gregor. It’s got the perfect drawing and color palette with beautiful Asian elements all together creating a lovely atmosphere for the great band. Although it was a struggle to print — back in those days, we only had very basic and poor set-ups — but the process was just so memorable and experimental. After printing, we also pasted several posters around the city with homemade wheat paste, and the next day, we sold a bunch at our first poster booth at Yuyintang, the place where Handsome Furs played. So all in all, this was just such an enjoyable poster project and our precious memory.
Join IdleBeats and Genjing Records this Saturday at the Other Place for an official Beijing Design Week event that will double as a silkscreening workshop and the official domestic release party for our Underground Lovers/Dear Eloise split 7”.
For additional information, including galleries, event info and special features, feel free to follow Genjing Records and IdleBeats on social media.]]>
Ahead of our Underground Lovers/Dear Eloise split 7” Beijing release party and screen printing workshop on Sat, Sept 28, we caught up with the co-founder of China’s first independent screen printing studio to discuss the art of print, the creative process behind their exclusive Dear Eloise poster and the joys of running a studio.
In a country where grassroots creative culture continues to struggle to find permanent and sustainable footing, IdleBeats is one of China’s most inspiring success stories. Founded in November 2009 in Shanghai by Nini Sum and Gregor Koerting with the intent of bringing more original, affordable and local art to the domestic marketplace, IdleBeats was the first independent screen printing studio in the country and has remained a beacon for the country’s creatives ever since.
The pair’s specialty is screen printing, an ancient technique that uses woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil that prints anything from posters to T-shirts.
Sum and Koerting are known for collaborating with a variety of partners, including local concert promoters, recording artists and corporate brands seeking to make a connection with the country’s burgeoning young trendsetters, by adding a distinctive visual stamp to their sonic ideas.
While many studios utilize large machines to screen print a large amount of products, IdleBeats follows a careful handmade production process:
After developing a stencil of the desired image, Sum and Koerting stretch a ream of silk onto a wooden frame. The next step is to expose a series of patterns from a stencil onto the silk with a strong light. An ink-filled squeegee is then pulled across the screen to press the color through the exposed area so that the image is printed onto the material beneath. Repeat as necessary for each additional color or layer.
The underlying material — vinyl sleeve covers, for instance, like in the image below — is then dried, hand-numbered and finally sold on a limited-edition basis.
The duo have wildly differing, yet complementary, styles: Sum’s influences range from surrealism to pop art with a twist of Dadaism while Koerting, a Dresden native and former graffiti artist, tends to take a more retro approach, incorporating a blend of psychedelic, mythological and Art Deco elements that frequently result in provocative dystopian imagery.
In the four years since their founding, the pair has gradually extended their reach from functioning as a studio that produces a dizzying array of output — T-shirts, prints, pencil drawings, oil paintings, screen prints and even toy sculptures — to the more extroverted role as a community center in which the pair host a wealth of events for creatives and the general public that range from screen printing workshops, exhibitions, cultural exchange activities and other on-site tutorials.
IdleBeats screen printed the covers for our latest release, the self-titled Dear Eloise/Underground Lovers split 7”. Sum also designed an exclusive poster for Dear Eloise, a first for both sides. They’re hauling their gear to Beijing on Sat, Sept 28 to facilitate a screen printing workshop at the official release party, which means you get to see the entire screen printing process from start to finish.
We caught up with co-founder Nini Sum to learn more.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Nini Sum. Originally from Nanjing, I’m a painter, printmaker, illustrator and the manager of IdleBeats, a screen printing and graphic art studio based in Shanghai that I run with my partner, Gregor Koerting.
Have you always been interested in screen printing?
I first learned about it when I was in college. It didn’t raise too much of an interest at the beginning, not until later on when I saw some awesome Western gig posters from the 1960s and 70s and found out that they were all hand screen printed! Some of them were wrinkled and torn but the warm handmade feeling made them so special from the digital copies nowadays. After that, I started making prints in my bedroom until it got too messy to live in before I moved out to a friend’s studio space in a basement in Shanghai. Not long afterwards, we organized a fun open workshop to invite peeps over for a free printing afternoon — and that’s where I met my partner Gregor. He moved to Shanghai from Germany where he had created and screen printed some posters already. He was searching for a printing studio and ran into that workshop. We just started pulling prints from that day, all the way ‘til today!
Awesome! Do you remember some of those original posters?
I can’t recall exactly which bands’ posters those were, maybe ‘cause I jumped in there from the visual but not the music [laughs]. Something really psychedelic with trippy colors.
Are you still holding DIY workshops?
We still do free workshops and events — including the workshop on Sat, Sept 28 at the Other Place for the Dear Eloise release party — but the Saturday workshops are one-on-one tutorial ones. By knowing IdleBeats more and more, some local artists and designers or just print fans started asking if they could learn this technique at our studio; some of them have very delicate artworks that open workshops’ printing set-up couldn’t fulfill. Thus we started having Saturday classes and also provide studio space to people who want to use it for their own projects.
Do you consider IdleBeats to be a part of the music scene?
Hum, to be honest, I don’t know really about the “scene” — if we’re in there or out or even if there’s a clear boundary, really. One thing for sure is that we’re always open to collaborating with musicians, especially local artists. We appreciate their talent and value the atmosphere that we create together here, being supportive towards each other and generating great visuals and sound together. I guess that’s a “scene” member’s basics, right?
We’ve worked with local bands, labels and promoters like Li Zhi, Duck Fight Goose, Maybe Mars, Sub-Culture, S.T.D and of course, you guys, and the collaboration brings more than a poster but also a positive interaction as well as friendship — even comradeship. Yes, sometimes doing this indie and underground stuff in Shanghai feels like a battle and guess that’s what tightens these small groups of people together and makes ‘em into a “scene.” We’re just glad to be a part of it.
For this release, you’re planning on designing an exclusive poster for Dear Eloise.
When it comes to music posters, no matter if it’s a gig poster or one for a band like Dear Eloise, it has to be about the music: a poster should be a visual language that describes what the music’s like while at the same time opening the door of imagination. So more and more, I’m focusing on the atmosphere and listening to the album in different circumstances, like in different places, under different weather conditions and when I’m in different moods. In doing so, some visuals come to mind naturally. After that, it just takes time to look back and see which is the most suitable one.
Any solid ideas yet?
I really want to make a visual that fits the music. They’re my favorite band and I’ve been listening to their music for a long time. Nanjing is also my hometown and there are some similarities: If you grow up, you feel the same kind of vibes and I can feel that it in their music. I don’t want to be too personal, but want to give people the atmosphere when they listen to the music… just want to present a certain kind of vibe. For the idea, I want to present it like a screenshot from a movie.
Three weeks later…
After days of polishing the details, I’ve finally finished it! The main idea was to create a scene that brings people a kind of visual feeling that’s similar or connected to what it feels when you listen to Dear Eloise. So I was wandering around Nanjing one day and taking photos of a public park and people chilling around. Later on, this image of a boy playing in that park kept appearing when I was walking around the city listening to their music. Then I treated the photos into a certain mood, kept the color tones gray-ish and also added rain and moonlight effect, so it’s a bit moody and surreal, also like a frame from a movie, which leads to unknown stories.
It’s a great poster…
I feel very lucky because most musicians and promoters give us 100% creative freedom and trust us during the creation process and don’t demand any specific style or elements. I guess as artists, they are also aware that the best artworks always come from a free soul… otherwise it’d just become designs in office buildings.
Does the same philosophy apply to your corporate clients?
It depends. Because there are not only music fans behind the corporates, but their massive customers, so we can’t involve too many personal feelings into the art or activities like when we make art prints or design album covers. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense in a big crowd. However, I’d say the recent collaborations with brands became more and more interesting. We recently did a three-day live screen printing for Vans at Midi music festival in Beijing (see above). They paid us to bring all the equipment up from Shanghai to live print with the people who came to the festival. This might be the first time ever that there was a screen printing presence at music festival in China. Lots of people got to experience the technique for the first time and all of them had fun and enjoyed it. None of it would have happened without this corporate support.
What’s in the future for IdleBeats?
Neither Gregor or I are super-ambitious about the development of the studio, like turning it into the biggest printing studio in Asia or anything. We enjoy being at the studio everyday and being able to make art freely and work with people we like. And since we’ve recently moved into a bigger and chiller studio space, there’s nothing more to ask for! Well, I’m actually dreaming of attending Flatstock, the worldwide music poster convention, to sell our posters at music festivals in different cities in the world someday. That’d be fun!
Join IdleBeats and Genjing Records on Sat, Sept 28 at the Other Place for an official Beijing Design Week event that will double as a silkscreening workshop and the official domestic release party for our Underground Lovers/Dear Eloise split 7”.
For additional information, including galleries, event info and special features, feel free to follow Genjing Records and IdleBeats on social media.]]>
Australian dream pop outfit Underground Lovers emerged from a long hibernation earlier this year with Weekend, their first full-length release in over a decade. Critically lauded and universally loved, the Melbourne-based pioneers are primed to leap into fall with a new split 7” on Genjing Records
While not widely known outside of Australia, Underground Lovers have iconic status on their native turf. Since their formation in 1989, the band has won an ARIA Award, toured abroad — including a stretch opening for New Order — released six records on both independent (Shock, 4AD, Rubber) and major labels, including Polydor and BMG, and have had a number of singles enter Top Ten territory on Australia’s Triple J Hottest 100 and the Billboard Top 100.
Throughout their heyday in the mid-1990s, the forward-looking outfit developed a reputation for transcendent live performances: Vincent Giarrusso, the band’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist, had a penchant for entering trance-like states while his bandmates — including co-singer Philippa Nihill and guitarist and co-founder Glenn Bennie — concocted a shimmering wall of sound. The addition of psychedelic visuals to the band’s precise, hypnotic rhythm section transformed concert halls into mass shamanistic rituals and the band’s legend was sealed.
This past spring’s announcement of the reformation of the original lineup and the release of Weekend — a record that perfected their characteristic blend of indie rock, dream pop, electronic loops and psychedelia anchored by their trademark ethereal male-female vocals — galvanized the country’s music press and proclamations quickly rolled in like thunderclouds to a drought-stricken wasteland:
“From rhythm and melody to voice-shredding vocals and bubbling energy,” said cultural powerhouse PopMatters, “Weekend is a slice of instant dance rock perfection.
Heavy hitters Mess + Noise called the record “nothing short of amazing”; Stack magazine deemed it “a triumph” and the Sydney Morning Herald proclaimed Weekend a “rapturous” addition to the band’s concrete legacy.
The public agreed. The band’s dedicated fan base, who affectionately refer to them as “the Undies”, helped make the reunited sextet’s first release of the millennium possible through a crowdsourcing campaign that reached its goal within four days. Concertgoers, perhaps surprisingly considering an entire generation had come of age since the band’s last major activity, turned out in droves to support the release tour and Weekend dominated the country’s entertainment news cycle and set the stage for their foray into Chinese waters.
Underground Lovers makes their Chinese debut with a self-titled split 7” with Dear Eloise, the Beijing-based duo who have settled comfortably into their new roles as China’s shoegaze elders.
A vital blend of the best that both countries have to offer, the release, a collaboration with the Melbourne-based indie label Rubber Records, marks several crucial firsts:
The two-song effort is the first split vinyl release between an Australian and Chinese recording artist; it’s the first Genjing Records release that will be widely available for purchase in select American markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, and it’s the label’s first collaboration with IdleBeats, the acclaimed Shanghai design firm that silkscreened the packaging for the release.
And for Underground Lovers themselves, the limited-edition effort neatly completes a 25-year cycle: the band’s first-ever release was a 7” recorded under the name Blast in 1988 while band founders Vincent Giarrusso and Glenn Bennie were university classmates.
Following last month’s rollicking Australian release gig at Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club, we touched bases with Vincent to discuss the band’s DIY ethic, the future of Sino-Australian creative relations and the imagery behind the music video for “Haunted (Acedia),” the A-side to the new release.
Tell us about the release party.
Vincent: It was a huge success! We sold out the venue and delivered a superb performance. “Haunted” was, in particular, a crowd favourite and Julian Wu came on stage to give a rousing talk about the music scene in China, making a lovely rap for Dear Eloise in the process. Julian is a Melbourne music entity: He goes to nearly every gig and has a broad knowledge of both the Melbourne and Chinese music scenes — especially punk and post-punk in China. He also helped us with the concept of the new split 7”.
Julian: I briefly discussed how the Cultural Revolution wiped out the country’s nascent rock scene starting in the mid-1960s and how it rebooted itself several decades later via mixtapes and cutouts. Yang Haisong and PK-14 were, of course, instrumental in this scene. After mentioning that Dear Eloise was Yang’s side project, I displayed a copy of the single and showed the crowd the crystal-clear vinyl, the screenprinted artwork and discussed the limited-edition nature of the release.
How did the crowd react?
Vincent: They bought lots of records and other merchandise, which was exciting. Prior to the show, we played Dear Eloise on the sound system to build anticipation: both the bands and everyone in the crowd really loved their sound and dynamic.
Sounds amazing. Any other highlights?
Glenn had two guitar techs on hand for the tricky open tunings and still managed to blow up a guitar — his blazer guitar blew its pots and we had to borrow a replacement from Alpha Beta Fox, the support band.
Write a haiku about Underground Lovers.
Moody dreamy pop—
a man and woman sing deep
songs of the abyss.
What was it like coming back from the abyss?
Exciting and refreshing. We love to make and play music and we love to play live.
Tell us about “Haunted (Acedia).”
The official video was shot by our friend and longtime collaborator Jason Sweeney and stars an extraordinary actor from the Netherlands, Caroline Daish. Her performance is riveting and Jason has crafted a subtle and beautiful clip set in the hills of Adelaide.
What’s the concept behind the video?
To represent the altered states we find ourselves in.
Underground Lovers has a DIY streak, having self-financed your 1991 debut and crowdsourced Weekend.
We’re very independent-minded. We want to create and make records and music when we are ready. The first line of “Haunted” is “We will wait for no one.” We like to be part of the music scene but not be part of the hype and marketing.
Tell us how you got hooked up with China.
China is very interesting for Australians. A friend of ours told us about the music coming out of the country — bands like Carsick Cars, Streets Kill Strange Animals, Hedgehog and Birdstriking — so we checked it out and liked it. We’re always interested in new and exciting events.
How does the band see its relationship with China evolving in the future?
We’re happy to see our music being released in China and would like to tour there one day.
We’re working on it! Where’s the best place to buy vinyl in Melbourne?
Polyester Records and Pure Pop Records.
The split 7” is available now in Australia. China residents can expect an official release on Sat, Sept 28 at The Other Place, an official Beijing Design Week event that will double as a silkscreening workshop and exhibition by IdleBeats, the Shanghai-based design studio that printed the liner notes alongside an exclusive Dear Eloise poster and Genjing-branded tote bags.
Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Idle Beats co-founder Nini Sum for a detailed look at running a design studio in China.]]>